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Russia says Syria shot down 22 out of 24 Israeli missiles during air raid

Reports say alleged Israeli strikes on Thursday killed four pro-Iranian fighters; no comment from IDF

Illustrative: Anti-aircraft fire rises into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense positions and other military bases around Damascus, Syria, on May 10, 2018, following what the Israeli military said was an Iranian barrage of rockets against Israeli bases on the Golan Heights. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)
Illustrative: Anti-aircraft fire rises into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense positions and other military bases around Damascus, Syria, on May 10, 2018, following what the Israeli military said was an Iranian barrage of rockets against Israeli bases on the Golan Heights. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

MOSCOW — Syria’s air defense forces shot down 22 missiles launched by Israeli warplanes during an airstrike against targets in Syria, the Russian military said Friday.

Rear Adm. Vadim Kulit, head of the Russian military’s Reconciliation Center in Syria, said six Israeli fighter jets targeted facilities in the provinces of Damascus and Homs from Lebanon’s airspace late Thursday.

Kulit said Syrian air defense units downed 22 of the 24 missiles launched by the Israeli warplanes with Russia-supplied air defense systems Pantsyr-S and Buk-M2.

There was no immediate reaction from Israel, which rarely comments on its military operations in Syria.

Syria routinely claims to shoot down Israeli missiles. Syrian war analysts generally believe that such claims — heard after nearly every Israeli airstrike — are false, empty boasts.

Russia, which supplies Syria with its air defenses, also has an interest in showing that they are not ineffective.

Kulit’s statement followed a report by the Syrian state news agency SANA that Syrian air defense units responded to an Israeli airstrike targeting the Damascus countryside and the central province of Homs.

There were no official reports of any casualties, however, a Britain-based war monitor said on Friday that the strikes killed four pro-Iranian fighters allied to the Damascus regime.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the Israeli missiles targeted “arms depots and military positions” belonging to Lebanese Shiite terror group Hezbollah, in the Qarah area in the northwest of Damascus province, near Homs province and the Lebanese border.

An air defense missile, bottom center, streaks toward what appears to be a missile shot into Syria, in a video distributed by Syrian state news. (Screen capture: YouTube/SANA)

The strikes killed four members of the Iran-backed group, but it was not immediately clear whether they were Syrian or Lebanese, according to the war monitor, a pro-Syrian opposition organization of uncertain funding based in the UK.

Lebanese media also reported that two missiles fell in the Qalamoun region on the rugged border between Lebanon and Syria, though it was unclear if the projectiles were from the alleged airstrikes or errant interceptors.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes inside Syria in the course of the country’s civil war, targeting what it says are suspected arms shipments believed to be bound for Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group, which is fighting alongside Syrian government forces. It rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.

Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since 2015, helping President Bashar Assad’s government reclaim control over most of the country after a devastating civil war. Moscow also has helped modernize Syria’s military arsenals and train its personnel.

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